Keeping Tabs on Children's App Purchases
Children today have grown up surrounded by technology their entire lives. Since before they are old enough to read they can pick up a tablet or smartphone and swipe at apps and games with ease. Modern kids have an intuitive understanding and ability with technology that older generations can barely imagine. The abundance of technology, however, comes with a price.
Easy access to any marketplace can be a double-edged sword. The convenience and ease of use is a boost to those of us needing a quick app, but accidental purchases can cause a lot of headaches. One-click online shopping was once one of the biggest dangers our bank account faced. Now, many of us carry multiple devices, each with their own marketplace and app stores.
With modern tech, mobile applications, whether on iOS or Android devices, are easier than ever to buy and download. So simple in fact, that a child could do it.
Designed to Appeal - Children love to download mobile applications that feature their favorite characters, cartoons and TV shows. Advertisements are aimed specifically for children in ways that will invite them to click a link and instantly download a game.
These games are typically free, meaning they don't require authentication by default before downloading. A new game can be downloaded, installed, and ready to run seconds from clicking an ad.
Developers commonly use, what is known in the business as, a 'freemium' model. This means that the game is free to download and start, but inserts paid 'upgrades' designed to make the player part with cash.
Freemium Games - Upgrades to games may unlock more levels, purchase an in-game currency, or outfit a character with special attributes. Competitive online games commonly employ a strategy that gives paying players an unfair advantage over ones who don't pay. This is often referred to as 'pay-to-win' and entices players to spend more to get on the same level.
Many mobile-based games are designed purely to encourage in-app purchasing. Some deliberately design a deceptive or tricky user-interface that makes it easy to miss-click or make purchases by accident.
There are regular stories in the news featuring kids spending thousands on in-app purchases for virtual characters. In some cases, children can use real-world money to buy items thinking they are spending in-game currency.
Apps to Help - Of course, it's unfair to give all applications a lousy name. Many deserve it, but not all apps are guilty of behaving badly. There are fitness apps, productivity apps, and educational apps that can act as useful tools to help enhance your day. Children can get a lot from high-quality applications in the same way educational software for the computer can be a huge classroom boost.
Getting the most out of your phone or tablet is about keeping your device safe against applications designed merely to take your money.
Secure Your Device - The best step you can take to prevent running up enormous app bills is to disable in-app purchases on your devices. This prevents apps from being able to take funds for digital items. The process to do this is simple, takes less than 2 minutes, and can save you huge amounts.
Safe Apps - With these options enabled, whether using an iOS or Android device, your phone or tablet is safe from app purchases in any hands.
Why Do People Create Viruses?
You’d be right in thinking it’s hard to program a computer virus that can spread across the world in a flash - we’re talking days of constant desk-jockey nerd-work. So why do they bother? Well, it generally comes down to 3 reasons: Money, showing off their skill, or to simply being a jerk. While showing off or being a jerk is pretty self-explanatory, the money side is fascinating.
Here’s how people are making money with computer viruses:
Bank account theft: Virus creators are more than happy to help themselves to your bank details, sneaking in to grab your login details or credit card info. They can either transfer your funds away or use your credit card details to go on a shopping spree. Sometimes they’ll leave the fun to another person though, and simply sell your details to the highest bidder.
Ransomware: Rather than a financial snatch and grab, sometimes a virus will encrypt your files and demand money for the unlock code. Without a true backup plan in place beforehand, you’re at their mercy. You’ll be given very helpful information on how to pay, plus a firm deadline before your files are destroyed permanently.
Ad swappers: A cheeky technique, this is when they create a virus that either puts annoying ads on websites you visit, or places affiliate codes on pages so that when you buy something legitimately – eg, from Amazon – they get a percentage as a ‘referral fee’. Their kickback doesn’t make your purchase cost more and you may not even know you’re supporting their activities.
Bitcoin mining: You might have heard of digital currencies being used for payment, but did you know you can also earn them with your computer processing power? Unfortunately, ‘renting’ out your computer’s processing power means paying more in running costs than you’d make – unless you were very clever and sneaky, and used a virus to rent out other people’s computers.
Botnets: Certain infected computers can be remotely controlled to do whatever the virus creator wants. In this case, they’ll usually set the infected bot computers to overwhelm a target web server, like an e-commerce store. Sometimes it’s done as revenge, but more often it’s blackmail. The ‘Botmaster’ says “pay me thousands of dollars or I’ll crash your site during the biggest shopping day of the year.”
Account stealing: Subscription accounts like Netflix and Hulu are often hijacked, leaving you to pay the bill for someone else’s entertainment. But sometimes, virus creators go one step further with online gaming accounts. All those digital items that you fought so hard for (special clothing, weapons etc.) can carry real world value and be stolen from your account and sold on a black market. Yes, that’s cheating!
If you're worrying about your protection online, make sure to check out our Pro+Tech Managed Services.
5 Ways Managed Services Can Grow Your Business
Managed Service Providers (MSPs) help businesses take a proactive approach to managing their technology without the expensive step of hiring an in-house team. Your MSP is essentially a collection of niche technology experts working behind the scenes to keep your data safe, generate solutions to IT problems and keep your software updated. Even larger businesses who already have an IT person will often call in an MSP when daily support becomes overwhelming or a specific certification is required.
Let’s explore 5 specific business breakthroughs an MSP can give you:
1. It’s extremely cost-effective: There’s only so much in the budget for IT and responding to events on a break/fix basis will quickly exhaust your accounts.
An MSP works by getting ahead of problems before they occur – making equipment last longer, defending against costly security breaches and keeping the business up and running. Instead of calling for a repair at a high hourly rate, you get a wide array of expert services for one predictable monthly fee.
2. You have access to multiple experts: Businesses usually end up adding extra tasks to an unqualified but enthusiastic employee’s workload, resulting in costly problems. With MSPs, you have access to many people who are experts in very specific areas, and your existing staff can focus on tasks within their job description.
3. Speedy problem resolution: Downtime and business don’t mix, so your MSP will provide a reliable expert on call (usually with 24/7 options) to troubleshoot and resolve any problems. Much of the time, you can also skip the delay of an on-site repair with rapid remote support available in just moments.
4. Fewer problems: A large part of your MSPs service is fixing problems before they happen. While fixing things as they break isn’t the worst approach to IT management, it generally means you’re also suffering productivity losses, downtime and losing money by the second.
Your MSPs primary goal is to ensure these problems are avoided completely, through system monitoring and robust security measures. They’ll also make sure every important software update and security patch is applied immediately, closing breach points and keeping your business safe.
5. Shared responsibilities: As your business grows, so will your IT systems. A good MSP is on top of what your future needs will look like and knows which products and infrastructure are suitable to help you get there. Your MSP doesn’t just monitor your system and repair as required; they share responsibility for your system. This means measuring, reporting, analyzing and optimizing, working with you to introduce new technologies and processes.
Depending on your level of contracted services, your MSP can actually become a catalyst for growth.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? With managed services, your business always has the maximum security against threats, downtime and productivity drops. But for the savvy business owner, it’s also a way you can afford to leverage cutting-edge technologies, with complete peace of mind and ongoing support.
Boost your business with managed services. Check out our Pro+Tech!
You’ll know if you’re a victim of ransomware. Often you’re met with a red screen telling you your business files are encrypted. You won’t be able to do anything on the computer, although the cybercriminals will provide helpful instructions for how to pay up. How nice. Here’s what to do instead if you’re the victim of a ransomware attack.
Cybersecurity Ventures predicts ransomware will impact businesses every 11 seconds in 2021. Yes, you read that right. That’s up from every 14 seconds in 2019. Another research company reported ransomware increasing 485% year-over-year in 2020.
Know that it’s widely considered a bad idea to pay the ransom, because you’re rewarding the cybercriminal. Plus, you can’t even be sure that they will provide the encryption key needed to regain the use of your files. What! You were going to trust the bad guys?
The Important First Step
The first thing you’ll want to do is make it all go away. Yet wishful thinking is not going to get the job done. Instead, you’re going to have to turn immediately to your disaster response plan, because, of course, you have one of those already. Really, don't underestimate the value of planning in advance for IT infrastructure compromise. Doing it proactively means calm, considered decisions rather than reacting in a crisis.
Step one is going to be identifying the systems involved and isolating them. Once you detect a compromise, limit the spread of infection by disconnecting the devices affected. Ideally, you take only a few computers offline or disconnect an individual network. Even in a large-scale compromise, remove all affected devices from the network to contain the malware.
As part of the isolation, don’t forget to disconnect any connected devices such as storage drives. The ransomware infection will even seek out USB thumb drives.
Power down only the affected devices if you are unable to disconnect them from the network. Why? Because turning them off means you might lose potential evidence.
Malicious actors may be monitoring your business communications. So, move offline to coordinate your response. Phone calls or text messaging will work, or personal email accounts.
Don’t attempt to restore critical systems until you have identified and isolated. After that, your business can move into triage mode. Prioritize what to restore, and recover using your data backup (again, of course, you have one of those, too). Consider how critical each system is for health and safety and revenue generation. Then, get to work restoring systems in an efficient, organized fashion.
Minimizing Ransomware Risk
Ransomware is a major threat to every business sector, and you don’t want to become the next victim. Common best practices include:
Businesses that partner with a managed services provider have someone supporting their efforts to cut ransomware risk. Plus, if the worst happens, the MSP’s IT experts are at the ready to identify and isolate. They can find the samples needed, determine the malware strain you are dealing with, and report the attack.
Your data backup should have recent copies of all information up to (or close to) the time of infection. So, once the MSP has removed all ransomware, they will wipe your systems and storage devices. They can swiftly reformat the hard disks and reinstall everything from scratch.
An MSP can help you plan ahead to contain the damage from a cyberattack. Let our IT experts install best practices, set up safe backups, and track activity on your network. Sign up for Pro+Tech today!
Fake Invoice Attacks Are on the Rise - Here’s How to Spot (and Beat) Them
Businesses around the world are being struck with a cyber-attack that sends victims a fake invoice that looks real enough to fool to most employees. It’s an old scam that used to see bills faxed or mailed in, but it’s made its way into the digital world and instances are on the rise.
Chances are you’ve already seen some of the less effective attempts, like an email advising your domain is expiring, except it’s not from your host and your domain is nowhere near expiration. These new attacks are more advanced, in that they look completely legitimate and are often from contractors/suppliers you actually use. Logos are correct, spelling and grammar are spot on, and they might even refer to actual work or invoice numbers. The sender name may also be the normal contact you’d associate with that business, or even a co-worker, as cybercriminals are able to effectively ‘spoof’ real accounts and real people. While it’s worrying that they know enough about your business to wear that disguise so well, a successful attack relies on you not knowing what to look for, or even that fakes are a possibility. With that in mind, here are two types of invoice attacks you might receive:
The Payment Redirect
This style of fake invoice either explicitly states payment should be made to a certain account, perhaps with a friendly note about the new details, or includes a payment link direct to the new account. Your accounts payable person believes they’re doing the right thing by resolving the invoice and unwittingly sends company money offshore. The problem usually isn’t discovered until the real invoice from the real supplier comes in or the transaction is flagged in an audit. Due to the nature of international cybercrime, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to recover the funds even if you catch it quickly.
The Malware Click - Rather than go for the immediate cash grab, this style of attack asks your employee to click a link to download the invoice. The email may even look like the ones normally generated by popular accounting tools like Quickbooks or Xero, making the click seem safe. Once your employee has clicked the link, malware is downloaded that can trigger ransomware or data breaches. While an up-to-date anti-virus should block the attack at that stage, it’s not always guaranteed, especially with new and undiscovered malware. If it does get through, the malware quickly embeds itself deep into your systems, often silently lurking until detected or activated.
How to Stay Safe
Awareness is key to ensuring these types of attacks have no impact on your business. As always, keep your anti-virus and spam filters up to date to minimize the risk of the emails getting through in the first place. Then, consider implementing a simple set of procedures regarding payments.These could include verifying account changes with a phone call (to the number you have on record, not the one in the email), double checking invoices against work orders, appointing a single administrator to restrict access to accounts, or even two-factor authorization for payments. Simple pre-emptive checks like hovering the mouse over any links before clicking and quickly making sure it looks right can also help. Like your own business, your contractors and suppliers are extra careful with their invoicing, so if anything looks off - even in the slightest - hold back on payment/clicking until it’s been reviewed. Fake invoices attacks may be increasing, but that doesn’t mean your business will become a statistic, especially now that you know what’s going on and how you can stop them.
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